I go to Church a lot. I'm an Episcopalian (formerly a catholicish Methodist, turned MCCer) . I'm also an aspiring Priest and Anthropologist( of the socio-cultural variety). Also, I'm a gay with a wonderful Boyfriend. This blog will likely be a combination of churchy things, anthropology, and things I find amusing. Please forgive my grammar and style, because most of my writing on here is stream of consciousness. I don't argue.
It’s the feast of St Luke the Evangelist.
Today’s Gospel, Luke 4:14-21:
14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
My sermon text:
In Christian iconography, the authors of the four gospels are commonly associated with the four faces of the winged living creature seen around the Heavenly Throne of God in apocalyptic visions granted to both the prophet Ezekiel and St John. St Matthew is associated with a winged human, or angel, symbolizing Christ’s Incarnation, St Mark is given the symbol of a lion, establishing the kingly nature of Christ, St Luke is given the ox, portraying not a kingly lord, but a humble servant, and St John is shown as the eagle in conjunction with the highly spiritual, almost Gnostic narrative of his gospel.
Today, on the feast of St Luke the Evangelist, it can be beneficial to keep in mind the image of Christ the humble servant as we read this gospel passage. In a moment of unusual clarity, Christ uses the passage of Isaiah 61:1 to clearly outline His intended purpose as the Messiah to the people of Israel. He has come to “ preach the gospel to the poor (or as Isaiah himself says ‘bring good news to the oppressed’), proclaim release to captives, grant sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Upon finishing the passage, He declares that this work of restoration and redemption is at work among them at that very moment, and closes the scroll.
The entirety of the thrust of Jesus’ Messianic campaign, if you will, is one focused on restoring people to wholeness of body and soul, bringing people back into proper relationships with one another and with God Himself. The very heart of Jesus’ work is and was humanity. It can be tempting sometimes to get lost in grandiose theological constructs on the nature of Christ, focusing on abstract themes of redemption, salvation, God Incarnate deigning to become man and other lofty ideals present in the life, ministry and death of Christ. The gospel writer St Luke draws us back down to earth with this account, showing us a Christ with a compassionate heart towards a broken humanity. In Jesus’ own declaration at the start of His approximately three years’ work, He says nothing of His impending crucifixion, or His atoning work for sin. This is not to downplay these aspects of Christ’s sacrifice; they’re central to understanding the Gospel. Instead, this is simply an attempt to see past majestic language, to look upon Christ as the humblest of servants with the utmost compassion serving those in the greatest of need. It is striking to note that considering the explicitly Messianic nature of the passage read from Isaiah, that Christ does not use this moment to grandly proclaim Himself as Israel’s Messiah, to ask for the worship and adoration of the crowd seated before him. With a simplicity that almost appears curt, Jesus communicates His inherently service-oriented role, and sits. Later in the passage, the crowd does indeed realize the implications of the prophet Isaiah’s words, and are outraged. They simply cannot grasp that the man they perceived as “Joseph’s son” could possibly be their long awaited Savior. They had failed to suspect that their salvation would come from such a humble origin.
Today as we celebrate the feast of St Luke, the gospel writer portrayed as the humble ox, we realize our own call to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as servants to those around us. Today we are reminded of the role our Savior carried out as suffering servant, and His words to us that in the paradoxical hierarchy of the Kingdom of God the least of all would indeed be the greatest. If Christ Himself states in Mark 10 that ‘the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve’, how can we think ourselves exempt from the responsibility of a life of service? As we thank God for the writings of St Luke the Evangelist, we are not presented with the Messianic Jesus of Matthew, the Kingly Jesus of Mark, or the esoteric teacher and Word before all Worlds of John, but of Christ the man, and the servant. As we seek to be more like our Master, the call of service to our fellow man is an inescapable component of our pursuit of being more like Christ.
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